Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

~Hebrews 11:1-3 New King James Version (NKJV)~

The past six years have been full of emotion and at times, heartbreaking confusion. In 2010, I left my husband of ten years and attempted to start a new life. I didn’t know what I needed, but I knew that it didn’t look like what I had. At some point during our relationship, it seemed that my husband had stopped loving me, so instead of trying to convince him that he did, I left. At this point, I sometimes wonder if he had ever started loving me.

I have had many friends come into my life and hang around for a while, but then either abruptly disappear or slowly fade out until all I was left with was the memory that once upon a time, there was someone there that I could talk to. I have a hard time understanding this because once someone is important to me; I have a hard time letting them be unimportant. This is true even when they have more than proven that their intentions toward me were nothing short of evil. It has never been clear to me whether this was to be attributed to a big heart or a tiny brain or maybe a combination of the two.

At times I look back over the relationships I’ve had and I wonder what it is about me that drives people away. I mean, I’ve heard that if your relationships consistently fail then you are most likely the common denominator that is causing the failure. It can’t be that there are so many people out there who have little to no capacity to truly love others, can it? The idea that I might be the flaw made me very uncomfortable for a very long time. Today, however, I believe that my inability to sustain something long-term is not necessarily related to something that is inherently unlovable about me inasmuch as it relates to the phase of life that I am in and where those I love appear to be. It’s most likely just a matter of timing and direction. For some, we are clearly on different paths. For others, we are simply at different places on the same path. Not good, not bad, just not right for either one of us.

If I’m honest with myself, I never really wanted to be married. I never wanted to be in that kind of relationship, but I let society tell me that I was too old to be single. I loved my husband, but when we were together, I was not healed enough from the trauma I’d been through as a young woman. I wasn’t trusting enough to share myself with anyone and being married wasn’t comforting in any way that was healthy. But I’ve been divorced for almost six years now and basically relationship-free for well over two years. It has become clear to me that the only relationship I want to focus on is my relationship with Christ. Sadly, it sometimes seems that even He is starting to dislike me. Now I know that this isn’t true, but it sure feels that way at times. In reality, it’s not that He doesn’t love me; it’s more like He is waiting for me to catch up. I was keeping good pace with Him for a bit, but for whatever reason (or reasons), I seem to have fallen back some. Whether I was exhausted by the battles I faced at the time or I just forgot where I was going remains to be seen. The question is, am I going to pick up the pace or sit by the side of the road and cry because I can’t see where He is? It’s not in my nature to sit anywhere and cry helplessly, so I guess I’d better get moving.

Take a breather when you need to, but never give up. He is still right there waiting for you even if He seems to be far away. The path is filled with obstacles and opportunities. Which will you choose to accept?

Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.

~Deuteronomy 5:33 New International Version (NIV)~

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.

Psalm 30:11-12 NIV

Today, I am celebrating another birthday.  I’ve been blessed with 44 years on this earth and I am happy to say that even through all of the trials, there is nothing I would change about that journey.  Good and bad, it has made me who I am and I’m truly happy with that.  There is a song that my sisters and I sang when we used to go out and sing karaoke, the Landslide by the Dixie Chicks.  I know this is not the original version, but something about the way they sang it just fit.  My two sisters and I have been through a lot in our lives and I believe the song captures where we’ve been and where we are today.  With that in mind, I’ve resolved to do a few things differently this time around the sun.

First of all, I’m going to be more diligent about putting God first in every area of my life.  Sometimes, I tend to take off on my own and try to do it myself before asking for His help.  That just doesn’t work.  No matter how many attempts I make, it never comes together correctly without His intervention.

Secondly, I’m going to move forward…even when it feels uncomfortable.  After a life that has been chaotic at times, my natural inclination should be to settle in and just coast for a while.  But I believe that God made me for better than that and that I owe it to Him to try harder.

Third, I’m going to sing more.  I love singing.  If I could have, I would have done it professionally.  But I lacked the courage to get out there and do it, so it has remained a hidden talent (if it can be called a talent where I’m concerned).  I’ve been encouraged to sing more, so I’m going to.  Hope you don’t mind.

God has been so good to me and I want to fill every moment of this life with praise of Him and all that He can and will do.  I thank Him for all of the wonderful friends and family He has blessed me with.  Also, many thanks to those who have sent birthday wishes today.

Love and many blessings to you!

“Landslide”

I took my love, took it down
I climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills
‘Til the landslide brought me down

Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time made you bolder
Even children get older
And I’m getting older too

Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time made you bolder
Even children get older
And I’m getting older too
Oh, I’m getting older too

I take my love, take it down
I climb a mountain and turn around
And if you see my reflection in the snow-covered hills
Will the landslide bring you down?
And if you see my reflection in the snow-covered hills
Will the landslide bring you down, oh, oh?
The landslide bring you down

by Fleetwood Mac/Stevie Nicks

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

~Psalm 51:17 New International Version (NIV)~

 

Some days I ask myself, “What is still broken?” I should be happy, but sometimes I’m struggling. Of course, at my core, I know that I am blessed beyond all that I could have imagined, but there are days when my greatest fear overtakes me and all I can think of is, “What if I am never able to bring all that He has put into me to fruition?”

The devil works diligently to convince us that we are not enough and he has been working overtime trying to convince me that in spite of all that I’ve been able to do, and all that I’ve overcome, I’m still nothing. The truth is, he’s right. I am nothing. But not in the way he would like me to think. I am nothing because He (God) is everything and the only way that I can ever be anything is to allow Him to work through me. The more reluctant I am to allow Him to work through me, the more nothing I become. No matter how “good” I’m trying to be.

I look back over the wreckage in my life; I see years of pain over childhood hurts, being molested, surviving a rape, losing five babies, a broken marriage, an ongoing struggle to keep my daughter safe, and inner turmoil that pulls me toward following my path and away from clinging to the path that has worn me down. In all of these things, the one component that seems to have kept me from falling completely apart is that God was watching over me and checking my responses to these trials. As I moved past these things, it was Him who gave me the strength to look at these awful things as a source of strength and not as areas of weakness. But even after I had come through them, there was still something missing. At those times, I hadn’t completely surrendered to Him. I hadn’t even completely acknowledged Him in my life and until I did, I never had any peace to go with the healing.

By the world’s standards, I live an average life. I have an average job. I live in an average apartment. I drive an average car. By my own standards, I feel that I have a great life in terms of those things, but I know that I am missing the mark in some very big ways. Like hearing God when He tells me to move or being obedient when He tells me that I’ve gone in the wrong direction.   I know that I could do so much better if I’d only trust Him completely. After all that I’ve given Him to repair, I feel somewhat sheepish about returning to the shop with one more request. But I don’t know what else to do. I do know that if anyone can fix it, He can. So my reluctance to take whatever it is back to Him is the only thing that stands in the way of that victory.

As Christians, we want to believe that once we “sign up” to follow Christ, everything will magically fall into place and we’ll never feel broken again. That simply isn’t how it works. In my heart of hearts, I know that the reason I am still feeling like something isn’t working is because I’m only about 95% of the way surrendered. I love God with all my heart and I would never want to do anything to grieve His Spirit, but there is something in my nature that won’t allow me to just let go.

The sad reality is that sometimes the thing we refuse to let go of is actually the only thing that is keeping us from stepping into the victory that He has for us. Sometimes He wants us to see things from the opposite side of the spectrum so that we can fully understand the task in front of us. But if we allow our stubbornness to block our view, we will never know whether or not the steps we are taking are moving us toward or away from the ultimate goal He has set for us. It could be that I’ve been staring at the wrong end of the horse, so to speak, and my outlook is now stuck on the limitations of that perspective, if that makes sense. For example, if I believe that the only way to attack an issue lies in what we take in instead of what we get rid of, then my focus will always be on gathering things to put in the pot. But what if the answer is in the purging?

I realize that this post is all over the place. My heart and mind have been so burdened by what I have needed to do that I have failed to take the time to consider what I shouldn’t do. As I write this, I’m making some big decisions regarding my women’s ministry. The focus had been on building women up and helping them to make good choices, however, I’m seeing now that what I need to be doing first is to help them to get rid of the things in their lives that are keeping them from seeing their options clearly. I’ve had to come to a point of almost giving up in order to see the whole picture clearly. Once I stripped away my own hang-ups and expectations, I had a revelation that maybe what I need to let go of has nothing to do with the ministry but with the things that are getting in the way of doing ministry.

I started out by saying that even though I have done a great deal of healing, I still feel broken somewhere inside. This is true. But the reality is that we are works in progress. We will never be perfect. We will never get to a point where we don’t need Jesus. We will get to a place where we doubt, where we fear or where we question whether or not any of what we are doing makes sense. The devil makes sure of that. It is in his best interests to keep us in a state of confusion, or a state of fear, or to instill doubt in us. He wants to keep us wondering whether or not we should trust God. He wants us to give up. And in many cases, he succeeds. We get weary and we decide that it just isn’t worth the struggle. We set aside the things which God has called us to do and we move forward in hopes that we can live a life that is just good enough to keep us from going to hell instead of living a life that brings victory to others instead of just to ourselves. I’ll tell you a secret, though. If the only victory you seek in this life is for yourself, then you have already accepted defeat.

My inclination in the past had been to shrink back and let the more dynamic types step out and do the real fighting. I was happy being in the background and doing the little things to help out. I was perfectly happy tiptoeing along the outside of the conflict and very quietly throwing my opinion into the ring as I hurried by. But the more time that passes, the more I see that the need for God’s people to speak loudly and step boldly is greater than ever before. I had been looking at the problem from the outside; failing to acknowledge that at one point in my life God had pulled me from the very center of that pit so that I could one day help others who found themselves caught in the same circumstance. Once I was out, it was as though I tried to forget that I was ever there…or at least tried to convince myself that having gone through it wasn’t actually the source of my strength, but an indicator of a weakness that I had to let go of in order to be more like my God. I missed the point that without having had the experience, I would be in no way qualified to help anyone else understand it or overcome it.

And so, to have any strength at all, I have to embrace the weakness that once crippled me and show people what it looks like from the other side. Yes, there is still something broken. If there wasn’t, I would have no desire to fix what is wrong. If there weren’t problems, I would have no reason to reach out to others. If there weren’t opportunities for improvement, I would have no personal example of God’s love to show. Even though we all have the ultimate example in Christ’s sacrifice. The function of light is to bring visibility. But you can’t see the difference if there is no darkness to overcome. I’m not saying that we need to be happy when things go wrong; but we do need to understand that darkness and brokenness are our opportunity to show light and healing to this world. We need to be passionate about declaring those truths and we need not see them as deficiencies in our character. The broken parts make up the whole and God seals them with His love, grace, and mercy. It is our job to show others what brokenness can become.

God bless you!

 

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
John 8:7 NIV

This month, two of my absolute favorite musicians passed away.  I guess, somewhere in the back of my mind, I had hoped they would both live forever.  Or at least long enough for me to see them in concert and possibly meet them so that I could tell them of the impact that their music had on my life when I was younger.  I’m not one to idolize, but the respect and admiration I had for these two men was about as close as I get to having what one would call “idols.”  It wasn’t so much that they did anything specific for me, it was more that they were the more tangible proof that God exists in all of us and that in some, His great power manifests in an extraordinary grasp of the human emotion.

These men, while on two very different sides of the entertainment spectrum, both understood what it was like to hurt, to love, to fight, to grow, and to seek the truth. I am greatly saddened by the loss of my favorite entertainers because I know they can never be replaced and that I was never able to tell them of the strength their words and music gave me in some of my darkest hours.  As I scrolled through the condolences posted on social media, I was surprised at the noticeable absence of acknowledgement of these two individuals from entertainers in the Christian community.  I saw only one Christian artist who was bold enough to admit that Prince had an impact on her and the comments she received for her post were hateful. Not at all what I would have expected from those who claim to be all about love and peace and treating people as Jesus did. Disappointing, to say the least.

I believe that God sends people to us in our time of need.  For me, when I was growing up, Merle Haggard represented the man I saw in my father. My dad would sing Merle’s songs so beautifully that at one point, I was certain that he was actually Merle.  I grew to respect the fighter that Merle was and the confidence that his songs gave those who had none on their own.  Men like Merle spoke volumes to those whose lives were broken before they ever had a chance to meet and understand their Savior. And so, Merle was sort of a catalyst. In some cases, he gave people the motivation to fight and that meant they would pull themselves up by their bootstraps and give it another shot.  While not the same message that our Gospel brings, the message of his music brought hope and I believe that’s why God gave him the talent that he gave him.

As a teenager, I had many issues to deal with.  I won’t go into detail here because quite frankly, those issues have passed and it would do no earthly good to rehash what has since been healed.  Prince was the “love of my life” during those years, albeit an imaginary relationship.  Though my father didn’t particularly care for him, I listened to his music for hours on end and it gave me strength, peace, confidence, hope, etc. Because his lyrics spoke directly to the part of me that was hurting, I felt a connection to him.  Later, as his music calmed down a bit, I found that my life had also calmed down and that as he grew, I grew. The depth of his lyrics and the beauty of his melodies carried me through many years of loneliness and depression and gave me a reason to keep going.  Understand, I was not in relationship with God for a very long time and while I didn’t worship Prince, I surely appreciated being able to lean on him through his music.  I believe that, like Merle, Prince’s talent was given to him so that he could connect with the broken in spirit and give them something to enjoy when life seemed so altogether unenjoyable.

As the years went by, I found that I detached from both of these men and music wasn’t such a focus in my life.  I went through depression, anxiety, years of loneliness and despair, got married, had a child, went through more trials, divorced, and went through even more trials.  And here I am. After all this, as I reflect on the times when I most enjoyed my life, there was this music.  At the heart of it all, this music was playing.  Telling me that I wasn’t the only one who was hurting.  Telling me that on the other side of it all, there could be joy.  Aside from the wonderful worship music I’ve come to love, there is a part of me that will always brighten when I hear songs like Silver Wings, Someday When Things are Good, Adore, Pop Life, and so many more.

As Christians, we forget sometimes that there is good in the world that doesn’t look exactly like our definition of Christian.  Sometimes it is flashy, sometimes it is bold. Sometimes it makes a lot of noise or is gruff in its presentation.  Sometimes, it is still struggling with its own demons and trying to get to that place where it feels worthy of being called holy.  Sometimes, the good that is in the world gets stuck in its own perceptions of right and wrong.  Sometimes it hasn’t seen a good example of who God is, and so, it is left to figure out how to manifest itself in a way that doesn’t further contribute to the problems of this world. Much of the time, those who are good have had little guidance or instruction in how to fit into the accepted pattern of what “good” looks like.  And if they don’t look like the “right” kind of “good,” sometimes those who are “good” will label them as “bad.”  And that isn’t necessarily right.

My point is that not every good thing fits into the perfect “Christian” mold that we would like it to fit into.  Sometimes God works the greatest miracles through those whom we would never suspect are doing His work.  It is easy to point out sin and what people are doing wrong, but if we are Christians and we understand what that means, then we also acknowledge good where we see it.  Rest in Peace, Merle and Prince. You did good.

God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us.  He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.”

Acts 15:8-9 New International Version (NIV)

Amazing Grace

How sweet the sound

That saved a wretch

Like me…

~Beloved Christian Hymn by John Newton~

 How strange life seems when there is no urgent battle in need of being fought. Not that the fight has been won, by any means.   It’s just that today, for the first time in a long time, I notice that the struggles I have been going through are over. I still have things that aren’t going exactly as I’d like them to, but the immediate threats have backed away and for a time, it’s been quieter than usual. It’s unsettling.

You would think I would be happy that there is nothing happening, but instead, it makes me wonder what is looming. It makes me somewhat fearful of the next big challenge. The daunting feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop keeps me from living in peace as He commands us to do. Why? If I am truly a follower of Christ, why do I feel this lack of joy and peace? Because the devil’s work never ceases. He is constantly looking for ways to get into our lives and wreak havoc. And so, we must be vigilant not only in our search for peace, but also in our protection of that peace once we have found it. God gives us the tools, but for some reason we often choose to try and defend ourselves with our own power rather than His. This is where we get into trouble.

One of the biggest places where the devil tries to get a foothold is in our relationships with others. He gets into our heads and starts putting his two cents in when we are thinking about the people we love. Which of my family members will ignore me this week? Why am I not important to the ones I love so much? Which of my friends will try to take advantage of me this week? Which of them will disappoint me? Which of them will do something that is completely out of character? And we become hypersensitive to every little thing that doesn’t line up with the way we want things to be. Or he will keep us so busy with things in our own lives that our friends and family begin to ask the same things about us as they are thinking about their relationships. If he can’t get to one side, he’ll get to the other and then all of the dominos begin to fall just the way he planned until we are either out of fellowship with one another or we find ourselves in an all-out fight. We fall for this every time and even though we may make up with one another, we still have the struggle which knocks us off course and distracts us from our purpose as believers; to love Christ and to love others. And as a bonus for the devil, we cannot be good disciples for Christ when we get like this, either. Obviously, we cannot teach anyone else how to love if we are struggling with it ourselves.

For example, this week I chose to comment on someone’s post on Facebook and the conversation went in a completely different direction than I had thought it would. Instead of being able to point out an attitude that I felt might be damaging to the Kingdom, I found myself defending my faith because I am not willing to be hateful or prideful when it comes to my own righteousness. I was trying to get the point across that no matter how much we have studied or how long we’ve walked with God, we still need grace. And just because we have repented for something, doesn’t mean we still won’t struggle with a particular stronghold. Some people can hear God very clearly the first time they mess up, but some people need a few more trips around the mountain before it finally sinks in. I thought this was a given and that most Christians understood that we don’t all get it right the first time and that we will absolutely never be perfect. To think that we are is to have the mindset of a Pharisee.

So, imagine my surprise when one of my dearest friends decided to attack me for “sugar-coating” God’s word. This is something that I have never been guilty of. Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t sugar-coat anything. I consider the feelings of the people I am addressing and I use tact, but I’m not afraid to confront sin and have done so in many difficult circumstances. To have someone tell me that because I believe in grace and in the covering that is provided to the children of God through the sacrifice of Christ is a slap in the face…to me and to Jesus. And one of my biggest flaws, the thorn in my side; is that when someone accuses me of something, I tend to attack back. This is especially true if the person who is accusing me was the one who was sending out the wrong message in the first place. As Christians, we should have no tolerance for false teaching or hateful mindsets. Jesus would never have told those to whom He ministered that if they stepped out of line one time, they were “out of the will.” If you’ve read and understood the gospels, this is something that comes across loud and clear. We learn nothing if we haven’t learned that we are not the ultimate judge of anyone else.

Sometimes our own mistakes cloud our judgment to the point where we can only see everyone else’s flaws. Sometimes, we are so busy trying to make ourselves feel better about how wrong we were in the past that we have to magnify someone else’s sin to make ours seem diminished.   Sometimes, we need to magnify our own righteousness to justify trying to teach others to be righteous. But in this we fail. If our heart is not in the right place and our efforts to help others come from a place of justifying our own flaws, we fail. If our intent in confronting our brother is to bolster our own sense of righteousness, we fail. If we use God’s word to shame others or beat them into submission to our idea of what a “perfect” Christian looks like, we fail. Jesus would not have done it this way and in these instances, we are not reflecting Him at all.

Accept the fact that you will never be perfect or holy enough to lead others exactly as Jesus did. He doesn’t ask us to be perfect. God’s guidelines for being in relationship with Him include loving others as He loves us and that means we have grace for one another and we don’t impose our own judgments on those who are struggling to be righteous. People are hurting. They need a Savior, but you are not it. You are charged with leading them to Him, but you are not Jesus. You never will be. I never will be. I can only be like Him to a point and from there, He applies grace. He does this because He loves me. He loves you as well. And no matter what anyone thinks, the way to righteousness is paved with stumbling blocks for all. Yours may be your inability to show others the same grace that God has shown you.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

~Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV~

He changes rivers into deserts, and springs of water into dry, thirsty land.

Psalm 107:33 New Living Translation (NLT)

Years ago, I used to sing a lot of karaoke…like every night.  Of course, years ago, I also drank like a fish and acted like an idiot most of the time, but that’s beside the point.  As I was saying, I used to sing a lot of karaoke.  One of the songs I sang was a country song by Jamie O’Neal called, “There is No Arizona.”  This song was one of my favorites because I had lived such a closed off little life that I often felt like the promises that God had for me must have been a lot like that painted desert that Jamie talked about in the song.  Oddly, this past week I found myself traveling for the first time in years and as luck would have it (luck really had nothing to do with it), I ended up going to Scottsdale, Arizona for a week for a conference.  The whole experience gave me a lot of time to think about the last ten or fifteen years of my life and how God puts the pieces of the puzzle together in His timing, not ours.  And with all of the firsts I experienced during this trip; my first time flying out west, my first time catching a connecting flight, my first time being away from my daughter for more than a few days, my first time spending so much time alone away from all of my family and friends, etc.), one of the most important firsts I experienced was that for the first time in many years, I realized that I’m going to be okay.  And that in this particular case, the grass is truly greener at home.

Over the last fifteen years, I’ve been many things to many people.  I’ve been a wife, a mother, a sister, an aunt, a friend (though not always a good one), a shoulder to cry on, a lover, and an enemy…sometimes several of those roles intersected, but more often than not, I was running from place to place trying to figure out which hat I should wear into the next exchange.  I’ve loved and lost, and then loved some more and lost a little more as well.  Through it all, the one thing that remained constant was that God was there for me.  He was ready to listen at all times.  When I was terrified by the life I found myself living, I cried out to Him and He told me how to get out of it.  When I figured out that what should have been a shelter was actually more like a prison, He gave me the key and opened the doors of my “cell” wide so that I could finally be free.  When I was struggling to believe that He wanted anything to do with me and I tested His love for me time after time, He was waiting there for me with open arms.  My God never left me.  And He didn’t make me any promises that He hasn’t kept or isn’t in the process of keeping.

Life has been scary, it has been two steps forward and three steps back most of the time.  I’ve had weeks when I wasn’t sure how I was going to buy groceries and then weeks like this one where on three separate occasions, I found myself sitting in a fancy restaurant enjoying a meal fit for a queen.  “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows,” Psalm 23:5 NIV.  My point is that one day you can be at the bottom of a pit and then, just like that, you can be sitting on top of the world.  But you must trust Him.  Whatever He is bringing you through is meant to be part of your testimony as to how wonderful and mighty He is.  He loves you and He has written a wonderful story for you, not just a heartbreaking love song that leaves you feeling empty and hurt.  Trust Him, He is not just something we hear about.  God is real and alive and He’s on your side.

But he also turns deserts into pools of water, the dry land into springs of water.
Psalm 107:35 NIV

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.

~Lamentations 3:19 New International Version (NIV)~

I was looking back through some journals with my daughter this past week and I came across some entries that, while bringing tears to my eyes, only further reinforced my belief that God has been with me through every little thing that I’ve endured. My family went through some very painful times, but when I read these things over the past few days, it was hard to believe that I was one of the central characters in this heartbreaking story. I can’t share many details at this point, out of respect for those who have been trying to change, but I can tell you that when a self-destructive pattern sets in, it isn’t merely self-destructive as I once liked to think. It destroys the hearts and minds of those around you and if you are still fortunate enough to have them in your life once you’ve decided to get yourself together, then you’d better thank God that their heart was stronger than the damage your behavior inflicted.

I have been thinking so much about where I’ve been and what it all means in terms of where I’m supposed to be headed. I don’t believe, as the song says, that He brought me this far to leave me. I don’t feel that I’ve done anything even remotely significant enough to begin to repay the love and sacrifice that Christ gave to a sinner like me. Much of what He has now restored to me was damaged early on and I lived an entire life thinking that the pain I felt was normal. But now, I see that the kind of peace I was seeking really did exist no matter how diligently the world tried to show me otherwise. It’s funny how we can grow up thinking that the version of right and wrong we see in front of us is correct, simply because it’s the only version of which we are made aware. And we unwittingly continue a cycle that is not only self-destructive, but salt in the wounds of those who look to us for guidance or support. In other words, we aren’t helping someone by giving them the same wrong information we received. If our advice isn’t for them to seek God’s truth, then we’re likely leading them the wrong direction. If we don’t first seek God’s truth before attempting to give others advice, we can be sure that we’re leading them the wrong way. In most cases, we should all be wearing signs that say, “Don’t follow me, I’m lost.”

When we share our experiences with one another, the function of that sharing should be to help others first understand that they are not alone in their struggles and challenges. At the same time, our stories of testimony should include not only what pain we suffered, but where and how God turned it around for us. If we can’t pinpoint that, then we haven’t yet figured out our testimony to the point where we are ready to share. And we must keep seeking. He is there, in the details. They say that the devil is in the details, but I believe that God is there. He’s watching us and waiting for that moment when we reach out to Him and say, “Please help me!”

Last year was painful for my daughter and I. For a time, I basically stepped away from my ministry because I had nothing left to give. I tried to hang on and create some things, but my heart wasn’t in it. My heart was broken. I’m not sure anyone would have known this, had I not told them but I’ve never felt such complete and utter betrayal as I felt over the last year and a half. I was accused of things that weren’t true and efforts were in motion to take away what I value most on this earth. There is so much to this story that is yet to be told and I’m waiting for God to show me how to use the experience for His glory and not to garner my own pity or even as a means of getting revenge for the wrong that has been done. But one day, the truth will come out and those who laid their snares will be caught up in them. As it says in Psalm 57:6, “They spread a net for my feet— I was bowed down in distress. They dug a pit in my path— but they have fallen into it themselves.” I know for certain that God doesn’t like to see His children dragged through the mud and I trust Him to bring justice to an unjust situation.

But even through all of the pain, I see that He has strengthened both my daughter and myself and that we are still very much dedicated to helping others see what He can do in their lives if they’ll just let Him in. We just need to remember that when He is trying to heal us, it’s best to let Him take the time He needs to do the healing and then we’ll be ready to lead others to Him. For a time, we may be on the path and gaining momentum but when we get knocked off course we don’t have to keep dragging our broken selves along and trying to do good when we, ourselves, have become the ones who need help. And while it is hard to just sit on the sidelines and watch others run with their batons, sometimes we have to accept that we are just in no shape to run this leg of the race. After He has healed us, however; we can emerge from whatever sidelined us as someone stronger and even more capable of crossing the finish line.

So, I’ve been sitting here, day after day, trying to assess what shape my heart is in. Am I ready for another battle? Am I anywhere near ready to even create a battle plan? Or am I still in need of a little “spiritual therapy”? Since I’m not feeling strong, does that mean that I’m really not strong enough? Not necessarily. The only way I’m going to know for sure when I’m ready is to continue spending my time with God each day, each hour, each minute…whatever it takes. I need to seek Him out and ask Him. God, am I ready to move forward? Can I really do this? And when He has prepared you, He will respond. And you’ll know when the time comes for you to put on your running shoes and head back out to the track…or in my case, my walking shoes…I generally don’t run unless there’s a big dog chasing me. The point is that even when we’ve been healed, the battles we participate in can do damage and we have to allow ourselves to heal again.

Our outer man is not coated with some super-protective shield that keeps us from being hurt, but our inner man is protected by the One who can heal whatever hurts us. And before anyone gets huffy about this statement, yes, I believe that the Lord is our shield. It is His love and His power that protects our soul from eternal damnation when we have accepted Him as our Lord and Savior. But the evil we encounter here will still be able to do damage on a superficial level. So, if we are feeling pain, here in this world and we let it overtake us completely…down to the level of our soul, then we must not be as close to God as we thought we were. So don’t let superficial damage destroy you. The devil is a liar and all that he has created in this world is a counterfeit of what God offers us in Glory. We get confused because this world is all we see. And it starts to look like this is all there is. But I refuse to be defeated by what isn’t even the real thing. And so, all of the fake that I’ve dealt with here will not bring me down. I will not allow those who dealt with me treacherously to have the satisfaction of having a lasting impact on my soul. He is stronger than anything they could ever do to me. So, when they stick out their leg to trip me, I’ll either walk around it, jump over it or worst case scenario, I’ll fall but I will let Him pick me back up and dust me off. And I’ll move past those fools. I’m already waving back at them. On my way to bigger and better things with my God. Just waiting for clearance.

Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

~Isaiah 58:8 New International Version (NIV)~

You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

~Matthew 12:34 NIV~

You need to understand that if someone is treating you badly, this is not a reflection of the type of person you are, it is a reflection of the type of person they are. The person who is hurting you is the one who has the problems. For some reason, we often willingly accept the criticisms of those whom we love as some sort of indicator that we are not okay. I’m here to tell you, that’s not the truth. The truth is that you are an awesome creature. You are fearfully and wonderfully made by the Almighty Creator and He wants you to experience love and healing. He wants your days to be filled with peace and love, not doubt, fear, and bitterness. If someone is making you feel like less than worthy of his or her love, then you need to ask yourself why that person is not allowing God to fill their hearts with something more than whatever it is that they’ve been stockpiling over the course of their life.

The verse above hit me so fresh this morning. The mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Yes! Indeed, it does. And ever since I have been more focused on the truth that God is telling me instead of the lies that are being told through those who allow Satan to rule their hearts and minds, I have had peace. Yes, there have been struggles and challenges, but overall I have been able to hold onto this sense that He is working it all out for my good and that I do not need to fear or worry. God is not caught off guard by the enemy’s behavior even when it completely blindsides me. He is there to pick me up when I stumble. He is there to put me back together when I am broken. And so, rather than allow the strongest influences in my life to be the ones that tear me down, I choose to hold onto that which lifts me up and helps me to fulfill the purpose He has placed in me.

There is no good reason to waste time on those who only seek our destruction. No matter how much they try, they will not be able to destroy what God has built. If God is for me, then who can be against me? In Him, I find peace. I find provision. I find protection. I find healing. And I’ve been shown many times just how faithful He is. He carried me through seasons of self-destructive behavior that I would have sworn had pushed me past the point of no return. He has dried many tears and healed a heart that was broken over and over by those whose only interest in me was to see how far they could push me before I fell apart. He wrapped His arms around me when I lay on the hospital bed after losing the last of five babies before they could be brought into this world. He saved my life over and over and over and finally, it hit me; it is His love that matters and no one else’s.

God has brought me into seasons of great abundance and I know that any periods in my life when I was low were brought on by my refusal to follow His leading. When I went my own way, I got lost. I turned off the GPS, so to speak, and sure enough when I looked around, I had no idea how I’d gotten to the place where I stood. But He makes it so easy to get back home. All you have to do is call on Him. Say to Him, “Lord, I need You.” He hears your cry and He will pick you up from where you are and set you down on higher ground. You only go backward when you choose to jump off the rock and be your own foundation.

I trust Him with my heart, my mind, my body and soul. He is everything that I need and without Him, I have no good reason to keep trying. He is the only thing that will never leave me wanting or hurting. He is my whole life, not just a part of my life. Every day that I live, I will serve the Lord. He has given me the gift of a life worth living and I accept this with arms wide open. There are those who might think I’m a flake or that I’m crazy because I believe in something I can’t see. To that, I say, I can’t see the devil either but I know he’s running around here hurting people every day trying to match the level of blessing that God bestows on His people with a level of pain great enough to make you doubt that God exists. I choose to believe that good will win out over evil because His word tells me that once the devil has run around a little while, He will pluck him up and throw him into a lake of fire. The devil cannot make the same claim. The devil cannot do anything to God. He can only hurt His children when they choose to put down the shields that God’s love provides for them. The devil can only come into our lives if we allow him to enter there. And the biggest way that we do that is to push God to the side and tell Him to leave us alone and let us handle things on our own. Take up your armor. Receive His protection and healing. Shut the door in the devil’s face and tell him to take a long hike. He was thrown out of heaven, you can throw him out of your life, too. God has given us this power through the Holy Spirit.

Yes, you have power in Christ and all you need to do to access it is to accept Him and reject the devil. Getting to a place where the devil no longer feels welcome in your life is a long and sometimes painful process, but it is a journey worth taking. You’d be surprised where he has hidden himself in your life. The devil is wrapped up in the lies you’ve been told. The devil is tucked into your insecurities. The devil is sitting in the corner of your living room watching you watch things on television that tear down your spirit and feed your mind poison. The devil is in your social media feed in all of the vulgarities that are attached to cute little pictures in the name of humor. The devil hides in plain sight and he chips away at you by presenting you with what he wants you to see as normal. He wants you to be so familiar with the ugly that it becomes the only view that you will accept as true. He wants to take away any hope you have of changing the pictures you see and he plants people and situations in your life to continually stoke the fires of self-doubt and hatred. Look around. Open your eyes. Satan was given temporary dominion over this earth and I believe that God wants to see just how destructive the devil will be before He sweeps this world with a great healing and takes those of us up who have put our trust in Him. God will rescue His children. So have faith. He really is there. What we see here is not what we will get if we hold onto Jesus.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

 ~Psalm 51:10 NIV~

quiet time

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always

~1 Chronicles 16:11 (NIV)~

Sometimes, you just need a little time to figure out who you are.  Sometimes, who you are has been wrapped up in who everyone has wanted or needed you to be for so long that you forgot where you started and where you had intended to finish.  As I sit here with my daughter, watching the New Year’s Eve celebration on television I couldn’t be happier to be sitting at home enjoying peace and quiet (or at least, lowered volumes) instead of fighting the crowd and smoke and loud music that often accompanies hanging out at the club.

Years ago, before I was a mom, I used to go out every year in search of something.  Always hoping to find some missing piece of myself in that crowd.  But it wasn’t until I got quiet and started seeking the truth that I began to feel like a whole person.  And now, I no longer have to sit in a booth or at a table full of people and feel so completely alone.  I no longer have to numb those feelings of fear that used to hang on me like chains.  Those chains are gone.  I’ve been set free.

If you are still seeking the missing pieces, I recommend that you look no further than the nearest Bible.  Give yourself time to be alone and read it with an eye toward learning something about your purpose here.  Instead of trying to find more reasons to avoid God or blame Him for the things you haven’t been able to find, why don’t you try asking Him for a little help.  Once you understand the importance of being obedient to your Creator, the pressure you put on yourself to know all of the answers all of the time will begin to fade.  Once you know who your true champion is, you’ll find yourself trying to spend more time with Him rather than trying to forget He’s there.

If you don’t know where to start, send me a message here and I will not only pray for you, I will send you a free devotional to help you get started.  Reaching out to Him is not as hard as we have often convinced ourselves it is.  He is waiting.  He only wants the best for His children and He allows us to make our mistakes so that we will seek Him out.  There is one relationship that is worth seeking and pouring your whole heart into; that’s your relationship with Christ.  Without it, you aren’t really equipped to be in relationship with anyone else.  You may think you are, but without the foundation He provides, it’s like building a castle in quicksand.

We can stay rooted in our refusal to accept the blessings He gives or we can break free from the world and allow Him to wrap His arms around us and fill our hearts with His unfailing love.  I hope you will choose the way that leads to a love that never ends. He is not merely something you put at the top of your list of priorities.  He is not an option that we allow for in our lives.  He is like the air you breathe; you don’t have to think about how important it is to take in the oxygen.  You know that without it, you won’t last long.  You don’t have to wonder whether or not He is with you; He’s always there.

This is what the Lord says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

~Isaiah 43:16, 18-19 NIV~

 

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—

1 Corinthians 15:51 New International Version (NIV)

Life is so confusing at times.  I’ve often thought that it feels like I’m holding a bunch of puzzle pieces that don’t necessarily fit together.  All of them belong to me; representing different pieces of my life, but not quite matching up with the other pictures.  So, what do I do with this?  I know that the confusion isn’t from God because the Bible clearly states in 1 Corinthians 14:33 that God is not the author of confusion, but of peace.  I know this to be true also because I had virtually no peace in my life until I let Him in.  So where does the confusion come from and what am I supposed to do with it?

In the interest of figuring it all out, I began to write down all of the different things that had plagued me throughout my life.  There was childhood.  Part of which was good, part of which was bad.  There was adolescence.  Part of which was bad, and part of which was well, worse.  Adulthood has been a mixture of good and bad as well.  Some of which could have been avoided, but some of which was necessary in order to learn what I needed to learn for the next leg of the journey.  At some point, I’ll have to write it all up as one of the saddest life stories ever but for now, I’m using it for the purposes of making some much-needed connections between some seriously mismatched dots.

As I looked from poverty to loneliness to fear to homelessness to more poverty to more loneliness and then to more fear and uncertainty, I realized that these times were also the times when I hadn’t been walking with God.  I followed the path from anger to more fear to violence to more fear to more anger and then to addiction and to self-destruction and then back to fear.  I hadn’t invited God in then either.  Finally, I looked from loss to fear to anger to despair to more loss and fear and anger and then, in a very different twist, there was a time of surrender.  This time was followed by a period of joy and then a time of release.  When I first came back to God, the struggle to let Him heal me was real.  It was like climbing a mountain while carrying about a hundred pounds of useless supplies on your back.  None of what I was trying to take with me was necessary, yet I held onto it all.

Years later, I’m still fighting the urge to carry forward the baggage that disabled me for so long.  Maybe not all of it, but at least one or two little things here and there.  And it doesn’t match up.  None of the fear or shame or guilt or pain that I felt years ago when I was walking a much darker path is necessary as I step onto the next platform.  It serves no purpose other than to slow down my momentum as I try to press on.  Do I throw those pieces away?  Do I store them somewhere until I come back around?  I will come back around to the bad stuff, right?  I mean, I can’t just keep moving forward, can I?  When you’ve been used to being hurt or disappointed, it can seem like those questions are perfectly reasonable.  Why expect that your picture could finally come into clearer focus?  Every time you’ve gotten close to healing, you’ve been hurt again so does that mean that healing isn’t possible?  Does that mean that healing is being withheld because you’re simply not worthy of a life without pain?  No, it means that you still have some learning and growing to do.

If you still believe that healing means that you will never injure yourself again, then you don’t understand healing.  The process starts on the inside and it often takes much longer for the foundational healing to catch up with the superficial healing that is taking place on the outside.  So, you may look like you’re all better when in fact, you still have a lot of healing left to do.  But, from glory to glory, He can make you new.  If you allow God to get in and do the work He needs to do, He’ll make it possible for you to move forward even when you are still battling the demons that seek to pull you backward.  He wants you to see that a new picture is possible.  He gives you the pieces you are willing to accept.  And this is where I got so many mismatched pieces.  I have been unwilling to let go of things at times that He has given me a little of the picture in hopes that I will move past it and begin building a new perspective.  But it’s not a scavenger hunt.  I’m not supposed to be clinging to the pieces that made sense for me at different points of brokenness.  I’m supposed to let those go so that I can begin to put together a more beautiful picture than the ones I have long since outgrown.

Sometimes, it takes me a little longer than it should to get the picture (no pun intended), but here I am holding all of the pieces I’ve ever been given.  It’s like holding onto your baby clothes because you think that you might, at some point, be able to wear them again.  It’s dumb.  It doesn’t make sense.  And there’s no need for it.  So, here goes…time to make room for some new pieces.  Time to get rid of what no longer works without holding onto the remnants.

 

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

2 Corinthians 3:18 New King James Version (NKJV)

Introduction

My name is Rebecca Benston. I'm an author, speaker, and advocate for women and children. My spiritual journey has led me to many questions about what is right and how to live out the purpose that God has set for me.

I am finding that after considering all other possibilities, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that without living a life that acknowledges the blood of Jesus we are lost. Yet, there are many who claim to know Him and understand His teachings who spew hatred and look for any and all opportunities to judge others instead of seeking them out to lead them to Christ. The goal of this blog is to work towards removing the animosity that exists between followers of Christ who subscribe to different doctrinal approaches and beliefs about what is expected of a "good" Christian. Also to draw the unbeliever closer to Christ through practicing His love and patience and to help all followers understand that love and true faith cannot co-exist where hate, intolerance and a sense of superiority live.

I also hope to open a dialogue with people from many different religious backgrounds and to work together with followers of this blog to break down some of the barriers to harmony that exist in our society. I hope you will join in the conversation!

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